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Horse pulling off front shoes

From: Carlos

Hi Jessica, Once again, thank you for all your help. I have created a special folder for all the messages you send and I save them there, my in-folder was getting a little bit full... I have the following problem, my four, er... five year old thoroughbred has long legs and a short back and she constantly pulls her front shoes off while we go on the trail. I ride her two or three times a week, for a period of one or two hours of easy riding, so she doesn't get too tired. Our farrier has told me that she may eventually outgrow this problem. I have noticed that when she starts to get tired, she lowers her head and I suspect that this may be compounding the problem, although she has pulled the shoes off when she is still fresh. I put bell boots on her and they seem to help a little. Is there anything that I can do to prevent this from happening so often?

Thank you. Carlos

Hi Carlos! Your farrier may be right, because at five years old, your young mare has a couple of years of growing left to do. During the next two years, her back will lengthen as she matures, so by the time she is seven years old she may not be as short-backed as she is now.

Apart from the length of the horse's back, here are two elements involved in pulling off her front shoes with her hind feet:

1) the hind legs are stepping onto the front heels 2) the front legs are staying on the ground a moment too long, and hte horse isn't getting them out of the way of the hind legs

With your farrier's help, you may be able to do something about both elements. The first and easiest method would be to let the horse go barefoot -- if this is possible, try it! If your farrier feels that the condition of her feet and the work she is doing require shoes, there are still some things you can do.

Ask your farrier to trim the mare level and balanced, leaving as much heel as possible and cutting the toes short, so that she has a straight hoof-pastern axis. If she wears hind shoes, ask him to round or bevel the toes.

In your riding, do exercises to strengthen your mare's hindquarters and back. If you have access to hills, walk and trot her up them whenever possible. If you don't have access to hills, then do transitions, transitions, transitions! ;-)

At the same time, be careful to avoid doing anything that would cause her to load her shoulders and put more weight on the forehand. Be sure that your saddle fits her well and is positioned far enough back that it doesn't interfere with shoulder movement; a saddle that's too far forward will cause a horse to take smaller, shorter steps with the forelegs. Sit tall in the saddle, not leaning forward or looking down -- both of those actions will put your mare more on her forehand.

Don't ride her until she is exhausted -- a very tired horse will tend to lumber along on the forehand, and that makes it much more likely that it will interfere, over-reach, and perhaps pull a front shoe.

Good luck!


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